This talk was recorded at the Institute
for Critical Animal Studies Oceania 2017 Conference in Melbourne. You can find
out more information about this conference here: http://www.criticalanimalstudies.org/oceania-conference/
You can listen to the Q and A following this talk here.
listen to other talks from this conference here.
Below is further information about the
talk from the conference booklet, available here: http://www.criticalanimalstudies.org/booklet/
Two of the most influential critical projects of the past
decades—Carole Pateman’s The
Sexual Contract (1988) and Charles Mills’ The Racial
Contract (1997)—so far have received surprisingly little attention from
Critical Animal Studies and animal ethics scholars. In this paper, I propose
the notion of a global ‘species contract,’ an unwritten and pervasive human
commitment to the orderly access to nonhuman animals’ bodies for pleasure and
profit which shapes all explicit contracts concerning them—whether in a bill of
sale or in talk of a social contract between humans and other species. I test
this concept against the ten theses proposed by Mills to describe the racial
contract, revealing the species contract to be
parallel to and structurally interconnected with the racial
and sexual contracts.
However, this is not a straightforward extentionist
argument. Picking up from the exchange between McKenna (1996) and Pateman
(1996)—the only substantial discussion in the
literature of the sexual contract and nonhuman animals—I
argue that the species contract is neither completely consonant with, nor
separable from, models of the racial and sexual contracts; critics of ‘linked
oppressions’ models are right to point out the tensions and
struggles between (and within) these emancipatory projects,
but are too quick to dismiss the prospect of a more sophisticated account of
the species contract. I propose that a
refined understanding of the species contract could meet
these challenges and still have real explanatory power, illuminating the
sometimes fraught relationship between the theory and practice of animal
liberation and other social justice struggles. As it is for the racial and
sexual contracts, the notion of the species contract is not
just a goad to contractarian
theories, but to the practice of political philosophy as a
whole, immersed in a culture and history of injustice. I conclude by echoing
Mills’ call for a research program into the
psychological effects of domination on members of the
dominating class themselves—including those of us who purport to come to terms
with domination through scholarship.
McKenna, E. 1996. ‘Women, power, and meat: Comparing The
Sexual Contract and The
Sexual Politics of Meat. Journal of Social Philosophy,
Mills, C. 1997. The Racial Contract. Ithaca: Cornell
Pateman, C. 1988. The sexual contract. Stanford: Stanford
Pateman, C. 1996. ‘The sexual contract and the animals.’
Journal of Social Philosophy, 27(1), pp.65-80.
Scotton is an editor of the open-access journal Politics and Animals (www.politicsandanimals.org/).
In July he will begin a PhD, supervised by Dinesh
Wadiwel, at the University
of Sydney. His research interests concern issues
of moral psychology—including the role of emotions, narratives, and identities—in
theories of interspecies justice.